The pathophysiology of diabetes is characterized by the body’s ability to produce or use the insulin hormone to metabolize carbohydrates, specifically blood glucose. To understand diabetes pathophysiology, it is important to understand the different types of diabetes mellitus.

There are three specific types of diabetes that we will address. These are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Each of these conditions is caused by hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) due to problems with insulin production or insulin absorption.


Diabetes Mellitus Pathophysiology


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (insulin dependant/juvenile onset diabetes) is caused when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to properly metabolize blood sugar. The insulin hormone allows the fat cells and muscle cells in the body to absorb glucose and utilize it as fuel (energy). When the pancreas does not produce the insulin needed for this process, the levels of glucose in the blood rise dramatically after the consumption of food. This can have grave consequences on the organs and the body.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non-insulin dependant/insulin resistant/adult onset diabetes) occurs when the cells in the body become resistant to the insulin hormone. When this happens the body is unable to metabolize blood sugar, and the results can be the same as in type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces the insulin hormone, but the body becomes resistant to the hormone and unable to utilize it properly.

The symptoms of diabetes mellitus include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, excessive sweating, unexplained sleepiness; and fruity smelling breath, urine and sweat.

Treatment for diabetes mellitus always includes diet modifications, a regular exercise plan, frequent blood sugar monitoring (usually several times per day), and keeping a blood sugar log and food journal. Sometimes treatment also includes insulin injections or an insulin pump, oral medications, and occasionally the recommendation of bariatric surgery (in obese patients unable to control blood sugar).


Gestational Diabetes Pathophysiology


Gestational diabetes is an insulin resistant condition that occurs during pregnancy. On occasion, the pregnancy causes the body to not produce enough insulin to support the process of metabolizing sugar. However, in most cases, insulin continues to be produced but the body becomes resistant to the insulin. At this time, the medical community is unsure about what actually causes gestational diabetes. However, it is believed that a hormone that is produced by the uterus during pregnancy affects the absorption of the insulin hormone.

Gestational diabetes is usually detected during normal pregnancy screening at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. If you are pregnant and suffering from the signs and symptoms of diabetes, contact your physician to be screened for gestational diabetes earlier. Gestational diabetes causes increased sugar to be sent to the baby. This can cause very heavy babies with abnormally high birth weight. This leads to an increased need for c-sections and difficulties with child birth.

This uncontrolled diabetic condition can also lead to health problems in the mother. Gestational diabetes typically resolves itself after pregnancy. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes tend to be at higher risk of developing the condition in subsequent pregnancies. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes also have a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus later in life.

Diabetes is a treatable condition, and with the proper care plan it is possible to live a full and healthy life. Undiagnosed and poorly treated diabetes can have devastating effects on the body. If you are suffering from the symptoms of diabetes, seek medical care immediately. Early detection and treatment are important to maintaining good health and preventing chronic problems.


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